THE looming strike by unionised TAZARA workers should quickly and amicably be resolved to prevent the situation from deteriorating and resulting in uncalled for losses.
Whether the planned strike is considered illegal or legal by TAZARA management, there is need for an urgent solution to avert the simmering crisis.
The Tanzania and Zambia Railway co-owned company is in fact dogged by numerous operational challenges that have contributed to its underperformance.
Presently, the company is fighting to revitalise operations on its 1, 860-kilometre rail line to improve efficiency – and a strike is therefore the last thing the company needs.
TAZARA workers have understandably been agitating to go on strike to press for improved conditions of service.
Both management and the government insists, the planned action by the workers is illegal.
Management has since called on the workers to
remain calm and put their plans on hold.
While we earnestly sympathise with the plight of the workers, we believe dialogue, as opposed to acrimony, is the way forward.
We, therefore, agree with Minister of Transport Brian Mushimba’s advice that TAZARA management and the union should find an amicable solution.
Such a solution can only come about only through dialogue and not by threats or ultimatums from either party.
In doing so, the two parties should avoid a hostile approach and finger pointing during the dialogue process if they have to arrive at a win-win solution…which is what need in this situation.
Agreeably, TAZARA workers like others in the country, deserve better conditions of service, but downing tools in our view will only result in the company losing out on business and worsen its not-so-good financial situation.
In the same vein, management should avoid threatening the workers with ultimatums but listen to their grievances and find common ground.
Sadly this is not the first time the workers want to down tools.
Recently, the workers downed tools over their unpaid salary arrears and now another strike is being plotted by the workers.
Clearly, there is need for the Zambian and Tanzania governments to find a lasting solution to the financial problems the company has for a long time now been facing and make it self-sustaining instead of relying on funding from both governments.
One of the railway company’s biggest problems has been the declining freight traffic volumes.
However, it is comforting that both governments have taken deliberate measures to improve efficiency and increase freight volumes.
In January this year, for instance, the Zambian government signed a statutory instrument compelling transporters of heavy cargo to move 30 percent of bulk loads such as copper, copper and cobalt concentrates, sugar and cement, among others from road to railway.
The statutory instrument has since taken effect and understandably, the freight traffic volumes are rising. This is exactly what is needed.
Obviously, a lot still needs to be done to pull TAZARA out of its operational doldrums and make it more viable.
This is why it would not be prudent for the workers to go on strike at a time when the company is undergoing positive transformation.
With increasing copper production in Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo, we urge both governments to take advantage of TAZARA’s linking role to boost trade among Southern African Development Community and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) member countries.